Sunday, December 31, 2006

December 31 - Reflecting Jesus

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 24 - 25
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 3:7 - 18

Focus Verses: 2 Cor. 3:17-18
17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

The Spirit of the Lord gives freedom. Those who place faith in Christ receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) who indwells our mortal bodies (Romans 8). We are no longer in bondage to sin (Romans 6), but instead we are freed from it to live a new life in Christ. Freedom in Christ means we have the freedom to change and grow and become. The Spirit of God leads, empowers, transforms, and shapes the lives of all who follow and submit to Christ. This is a process; each passing day, each passing year, we continue to grow, becoming more and more like Jesus.

Response and Action:
I need to remember that in Christ, I have the freedom to change and become more like Jesus. I need to hold on to this promise and make every effort to make it a reality. I need to open my heart and focus my mind on the leading of the Spirit of the Lord as I read and apply the scriptures, as I pray, and as I participate in Christian community.

O God, I have so far to go, but I know you love me where I am. Thank you for a love that accepts me where I am and yet calls and lifts me to where I can be. Thank you for your Spirit and the freedom he gives me as a believer in Christ Jesus. Help me to be faithful in prayer, a student of the scriptures, and an active participant in Christian community. Make me sensitive and alert to your leading. Help me to make new strides each day as I follow Jesus with a heart to be like him. Amen.

Proverbs: 31:30
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

In His Image: Reflecting Christ in Everyday Life
by Michael Wilkins

Saturday, December 30, 2006

December 30 - Writing on My Heart

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 21 - 23
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 2:5 - 3:6

Focus Verses: 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

My life is a living letter of what is written on my heart. The work of the Holy Spirit in my life is like a written letter to all who see me and know me.

Response and Action:
I want my life to be a testimony of truth. I want my actions and my words to give evidence of my love for Christ Jesus and my desire to live my life as he would live it if he were in my place. I must give my heart and mind to the reading and meditation of God's written word, the scriptures, so that my life can be guided by it (Ps. 119:9-11). I must seek the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to life this way. I must desire to have God's will, character, and calling written on my heart.

O Holy Spirit, make my life a living letter of the truth, grace, and hope in Christ. O God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Help me to fully surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs: 30:5
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
by Dallas Willard

Friday, December 29, 2006

December 29 - Getting and Giving Comfort

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 19 - 20
N.T. - 2 Corinthians 1:1 - 2:4

Focus Verses: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God is compassionate. He sees and knows our troubles and he sustains and comforts us. For this, we should offer him praise and thanks. The comfort we receive from God enables us to bring comfort to others around us as they encounter trouble and despair.

Response and Action:
I need to take not of the many ways God has sustained, comforted, and brought me through troubles and hardships. I need to praise God for his love and provision and promises. I need to be mindful of those around me who are experiencing trouble and do what I can to pass along the same comfort I have received. I can be a source of God's comfort and encouragement to others. I must look to God for the grace to endure trouble and the grace to help others in trouble.

O God, thank you for the grace and comfort you extend to me through your word, your Spirit, your people, and your provision. I praise you for being a God of comfort and consolation. Help me to always look to you for the strength and hope I need in the face of troubles. Give me eyes to see the hurts and troubles of those around me; give me a heart of compassion toward them; and give me the strength and will to be an instrument of comfort in their lives. Amen.

Proverbs: 29:7
"The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."

Christian Caregiving: A Way of Life
by Kenneth C. Haugk

Thursday, December 28, 2006

December 28 - Facing Giants

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 17 - 18
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 16

Focus Verses: 1 Samuel 17:45-49
45 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

Goliath's confidence was in his own strength and weapons. David's confidence was in God. David was confident that God would help him face opposition he could not face on his own. He was so confident that he ran toward the battle line. He was victorious.

Response and Action:
I want God's strength and help to face difficult problems and obstacles. If my faith in God is strong, I will run toward the battle line to face the troubles and threats that are set before me.

O God, I believe in you. Please increase my faith. Help me to find confidence in you, O Lord, and to not be discouraged or fearful because of my weakness and limitations. Help me to remember that you will help me live for you and empower me to face difficult situations. Amen.

Proverbs: 28:26
"He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe."

Living in God's Power: Finding God's Strength for Life's Challenges
by Bill Hybels, Kevin G. Harney, and Sherry Harney

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27 - Faith and Resurrection

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 15 - 16
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 15

Focus Verses:
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

If Jesus Christ did not raise from the grave -- if the resurrection story is just a myth or wishful thinking, then Christianity is a sham. Apart from the resurrection, faith and preaching is worthless and the apostles are misled at best and liars at worst. Without the resurrection, there is no deliverance from sin and all who have died with faith in Christ are lost. But Christ has been raised from the dead! The testimony of scripture, history, the church, and of changed lives all point to the veracity of Christ's resurrection.

Response and Action:
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus - my faith matters. I believe it, so the study of scripture and learning as a disciple of Jesus are vital. I believe in the resurrection, so I have hope of something beyond my mortal life. I believe in resurrection power, so I have hope of transformation and renewal in my life today. I have hope that the world can change through faith and obedience to Christ. I believe in the resurrection, so I have hope of salvation. I want to see others find that same hope and salvation.

O God, thank you for raising Christ Jesus from the dead. Thank you that resurrection power is available to me today as I surrender to you (Romans 8). Help me to take hold of that power that I might be changed into the likeness Jesus in thought, word, and deed. Thank you for your promise to raise me on the final day, that I might spend eternity with you and all those who have believed in Jesus. Help me to be a witness and a blessing to everyone around me that others might come to salvation and be raised into a new life and a new hope. I look for the resurrection and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Proverbs: 27:12
"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."

by N.T. Wright

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December 26 - Thinking about Faith and Gifts

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 14
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 14

Focus Verses:
1 Samuel 14:6b
Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.

1 Corinthians 14:12b
Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

In today's Old Testament reading we se that Saul's son, Jonathan, was a man of great faith and daring action. He acted with greater insight and faith than his father the King. He believed God was able to do great things whether by few or by many.

In our New Testament reading, Paul instructs the Corinthian Christians to seek after and exercise the spiritual gifts that build up others. Serving others and edifying the church are the primary purposes of spiritual giftedness.

Response and Action:
God can use me. My limitations and weaknesses do not limit or restrain God. God has given me gifts and abilities for serving him. God can even use my weaknesses and lack of giftedness. I want to be a man of action and faith, like Jonathan. I want my actions, my service, and my gifts to be used by God for the cause of Christ and the benefit of his Church.

O God, help me to surrender fully to you in faith that I might be used by you. Help me to step out and take action, remembering that you are not restrained by my strengths or weaknesses. Strengthen me and graciously give me abilities and gifts I need to do my part to serve others and build up the Church. Through Christ, Amen.

Proverbs: 26:12
"Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Spiritual Gifts
R. Paul Stevens

Monday, December 25, 2006

December 25 - Love Is

Merry Christmas!


Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 11 - 13
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 13

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 13:4-7
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is lived out through patience, kindness, contentment, humility, civility, unselfishness, forbearance, and graciousness. Love requires honesty, concern and care for others, and hopeful perseverance.

Response and Action:
I want to be a loving person. The virtues and qualities of love described in these verses help me to see what that means. They also give me some very practical guidelines for self-examination.

O God, by the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, teach me to love. Help me to clearly see Christ's example and transform my heart and mind that I might follow him more completely each day. Amen.

Proverbs: 25:28
"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."

Love Walked Among Us: Learning To Love Like Jesus
by Paul E. Miller

Sunday, December 24, 2006

December 24 - My Role in the Body

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 9 - 10
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 12

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 12:14-18
14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

People in the body of Christ, the Church, have different gifts, serve different purposes, and meet different needs. Our place and purpose is arranged by God to accomplish God's intent for each individual and for the entire community. There is no need for competition, envy, or pride. Each person, each member of the body, should be content to be what she is and to do what he has been made to do. This is how we support the greater community, find our own fulfillment, and glorify God.

Response and Action:
I need to develop and exercise the gifts God has given me. I shouldn't envy others for what they are and do. I shouldn't despise or diminish what I am or what I can do. I am God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good things God has prepared for me to do (Eph. 2:10). Every member of the body is needed and should support and serve the health and life of the whole body. I benefit others and others benefit me.

O God, you have fearfully and wonderfully made me. You know the purposes you have for me and the gifts you have given me. Help me, as I seek you with my whole heart, to discover my gifts and to understand how I can use them to serve your will. Give me good things to do and the heart to do them. Amen.

Proverbs: 24:3-4
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures."

Christly Gestures: Learning to Be Members of the Body of Christ
by Brett P. Webb-Mitchell

Saturday, December 23, 2006

December 23 - Pulling Together

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 6 - 8
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 10:23 - 11:34

Focus Verses: 1 Cor.11:17-18
17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

"When you come together, there are divisions." The church in Corinth faced all kinds of challenges that worked against unity. Even their corporate meeting times were a source of disunity. Controversies ranged from dietary restrictions, to the role of women in worship, to the practice of communion. All of these issues needed to be faced in a spirit of humility and selflessness. Paul's admonition in 10:24, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others," would go a long way toward the resolving of each of these divisive issues.

Response and Action:
There are many issues that divide Christians today. We are great at straining and breaking fellowship over politics, theology, experience, culture, race, conduct, and just about anything else. These issues become even more problematic when we are more concerned about our own interests and opinions than we are about others. I need to work for unity among Christians. I need to care about the best interests of others. True concern for the good of others is a guiding principle for navigating through the many difficult issues we Christians face today.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, union. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness, light. Grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled as to to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is giving we receive; it is in pardoning we receive pardon; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
(A prayer commonly attributed to St. Francis.)

Proverbs: 23:17
"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD."

Free to Disagree
by John Wecks

Friday, December 22, 2006

December 22 - Facing Temptation

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 3 - 5
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 10:1-22

Focus Verses: 1 Cor.10:12-13
12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament, the history of the Church, and even the history of our own lives should serve as constant reminders of how easy it is to fall if you begin to have a false sense of confidence in self. Complacency leads to carelessness. We must be on guard against temptation. No temptation is unique, but rather "common" to all people. Temptation can be aggressive - it "seizes" upon people. But in the face of every temptation, God is faithful, protecting us from temptations that are too great for us to face, giving us strength, and providing a way of escape.

Response and Action:
I must be honest about my vulnerability to temptation. Everybody faces temptation, and I must be on guard against it. I do not need to fear temptation, because God will protect me and strengthen me. When I am tempted, I must look to God for strength and look for the escape he is providing. When I see a way of escape, I must act immediately to take hold of it.

Thank you, O God, for your faithfulness to protect me from temptation I cannot endure. Thank you for the strength and deliverance you provide when I face the temptations I can face with your help. Strengthen me and lead me to live a life that brings glory to you. Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burdens. Through Christ Jesus, who lives are reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Proverbs: 22:5
"In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

by Tom L. Eisenman

Thursday, December 21, 2006

December 21 - Running to Win

Today's Reading:
O.T. - 1 Samuel 1 - 2
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 9

Focus Verses: 1 Cor.9:24-27
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life of discipleship, holiness, and mission. The Christian life has a goal; it requires effort, training, and self-control. With this in mind, Paul says that he runs with: 1. Direction - He is not aimless. 2. Discipline - He exercises control over his body and his actions. 3) Diligence - He is in the race for the long run and his eye is on the prize at the finish line.

Response and Action:
Christ has called me to a life of discipleship - serving and honoring God, becoming more like Jesus, and sharing in the work and mission of Jesus. This Christian life will require no less focus, effort, training, and self-control than a runner who is competing in the Olympics. I must keep my purpose before me at all times - direction. I must be very intentional and make every effort to establish patterns and practices in my life that move me toward my goals - discipline. I must be persistent and perseverant and keep my eye on the finish line, realizing that my goals are lifetime goals - diligence.

O God, help me to run my life's race with direction, discipline, and diligence. Show me the ways I should go through your word and by your Spirit. By your grace and power, help me to live with discipline and self-control. Help me to do the things that help me grow stronger in Christ. Uphold me and encourage me that I might be faithful and diligent as I follow Jesus all the days of my life. Amen.

Proverbs: 21:31
"The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD."

The Spirit of the Disciplines - Understanding How God Changes Lives
by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

December 20 – Selfless Freedom

Today's Reading:
O.T. - Ruth 3 - 4
N.T. - 1 Corinthians 8

Focus Verses: 1 Cor.8:1-2;9-12
1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. ---- 9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

What a person knows, understands, and believes has a direct relationship with what that person can or cannot do with a clear conscience. Some Christians who have a clearer knowledge and understanding of truth may have freedoms that others do not have. They must not, however, exercise that freedom with a disregard toward those (Christian or not) with less understanding and less freedom. A knowledge that results in carelessness toward others is not wise or Christ-like. Real knowledge is always more concerned with the interests of others than with the exercise of personal freedoms.

Response and Action:
I need to pursue truth and wisdom. The more I know the truth, the more the truth will set me free. My freedoms must always be lived out with reverence for Christ and concern for others. Knowledge becomes arrogance if it is blind to the interests of others. Freedom becomes sin if it hurts or destroys others.

Lord God, Help me to grow in knowledge and understanding. I want to live in the freedom that comes from a knowledge and understanding of truth. At the same time, Lord, I want to live the truth in love. Give me a sensitivity and awareness of the needs and views of others who may not fully understand what is true and/or may not have the same freedoms. Give me a love and concern for them that tempers and guides my actions and the exercise my freedoms. Amen.

Proverbs: 20:3
“It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

December 19 - Husbands & Wives

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Ruth 1 - 2
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 7

Focus Verses: 1 Cor.7:1-5
1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Remaining unmarried is a good thing, but it is not advisable for people with strong sexual needs and desires. People must be realistic about their sexuality and temptations they will face in a sexually immoral culture. Marriage is the only God-given context for sexual activity. It is the sacred context for the fulfillment of sexual needs. Husbands and wives must take sexual intimacy very seriously -- caring for each other and considering themselves to be one flesh. Husbands and wives may, by mutual consent, agree to refrain from sexual activity if it serves a higher, spiritual purpose, but even that purpose must be seen as temporary. A healthy sexual relationship in marriage serves as a deterrent to sexual immorality.

Response and Action:
I am a married person. I must treat my wife with loving respect and care. Our marriage is a sacred and committed context for sexuality. Our healthy intimacy is a safeguard against sexual immorality and temptation.

Lord God, I thank you for the gift of marriage. Help me to love, cherish, and honor my wife. Thank you for this special relationship, and thank you for making it a sanctuary of sexual purity in a world filled with sexual sin. Amen.

Proverbs: 19:14
"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD."

The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle
by Mike Mason

Monday, December 18, 2006

December 18 - Bodies that Honor God

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 19 - 21
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 6

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 6:13b-20
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Sexual immorality is a product of fallen humanity. The human body is not meant for immorality. The body is intended for glorifying God. God raised Jesus from the dead and by that same power he can raise us from our fallen condition. Sexuality is a very deep part of the human self. That makes it a very dangerous form of sin. Once it takes root in our bodies it is very difficult to root it out, and its impact upon our whole person can be devastating. We need to think of our bodies as a temple -- a holy place for the Holy Spirit to live. We bring honor to God by caring for our bodies and making sure they are used for holy purposes.

Response and Action:
I must avoid sexual immorality. I must recognize the danger sexual immorality poses to my whole self. I need to honor God with my body. I need to draw upon the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to rise above the vulnerability of my fallen nature. I must recognize that God's power and grace can raise me up.

O God, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Create in me a clean heart. Strengthen me to do what is right and to honor you with my body.

Proverbs: 18:3
"When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace."

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity
by Lauren F. Winner

Sunday, December 17, 2006

December 17 - Confronting Our Sins

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 16 - 18
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 5

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 5:9-11
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

Corinth was famous for sexual immorality. The church there would certainly have to deal with a wide variety of sexual issues as people were coming to God through faith in Christ. How does the church extend grace and hope to all people -- all sinners -- and still hold up a standard for holy living? The case in 1 Corinthians 5 was one of incest. A man was having a sexual relationship with a woman who was or who had been his father's wife. The church was evidently proud of how tolerant they were, thinking that non-confrontation would be the gracious, Christian thing to do. Paul counters this attitude in no uncertain terms. The problem seems to be that the man claimed to be a Christian, but didn't see his sexual behavior as inconsistent with this claim. Paul says that Christians need to take holiness and morality very seriously because Christian fellowship should be moving people toward maturity and holiness. Sin must be seen as sin if it is to be dealt with. A "toleration" that turns a blind eye toward sin and a deaf ear to Christ's call to holiness is a form of tolerance that denies the need for and possibility of transformation.

Response and Action:
I need to pursue holiness and take sin seriously in my life. I also need to take it seriously when I see it in the lives of my Christian friends. To tolerate open and defiant sin in my life or in the lives of my Christian friends would be to ignore the calling of Christ and the resurrection power he offers for our transformation. We must recognize sin in our lives, repent of this sin, and work together toward holiness by the grace of God.

O God, help me to be honest about sin in my life. Help me to be honest and loving with my Christian friends about the sins I recogniz
e in their lives. Help us all to humbly turn to you for the power we need to change. Help us to graciously receive the gentle corrections and admonitions we extend to each other. Help the Christian community I'm a part of to be both loving and straightforward in a spirit of gracious accountability and support. Amen.

Proverbs: 17:10
"A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool."

Restoring the Fallen: A Team Approach to Caring, Confronting & Reconciling
by Sandy Wilson, Paul Friesen, Virginia Friesen, and Larry Paulson

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December 16 - Motives in the Light

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 13 - 15
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 4

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 4:1-5
1So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

The motives of our hearts are open before God. He knows them and he can expose them and bring them to light.

Response and Action:
I want to please God. Only God can truly understand my actions and the motivation for those actions. Pleasing God and bringing him praise should be my motivation for all that I do.

O God, help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. You have blessed me in many ways; help me to live faithfully for you. Do not let me be tempted or influenced by a need to receive the praise of people, but instead, give me a heart that is motivated by a desire to receive your commendation. Amen.

Proverbs: 16:2
"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD."

Desiring God's Will: Aligning Our Hearts With The Heart Of God
by David G. Benner

Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15 - Misplaced Loyalties

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 10 - 12
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 3

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 3:5-8
5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.

Christians can be too concerned with loyalties to a certain teacher, tradition, or denomination. "I am of Apollos" and "I am of Paul" both sound very similar to the way people try identify themselves today – “I am protestant,” “I am Calvinist,” “I am nondenominational,” “I am of Pastor P----,” “I am of Pastor B---,” “I am Lutheran,” “I am evangelical.” God is the one who makes the seed of faith grow. Teachers, traditions, and denominations should only serve to lead us to God and to mature in our faith and devotion to Christ.

Response and Action:
While I value specific individuals, writers, teachers, groups, ministries, and denominations, I must not allow this appreciation to turn into something divisive. My loyalty is to Christ Jesus and I embrace his church in it’s entirety. Those who plant and water the seeds of faith in my life deserve my thanks and love, but they would be dishonored if my loyalty to them overshadowed my loyalty for Christ and my desire to see all who follow him to be united in testimony and fellowship.

O God, I believe in one, holy, and universal church. I thank you for the men and women who have planted and watered the seeds of faith in me. Thank you for their examples, teachings, and writings. Help me to demonstrate true appreciation for them by placing my faith and commitment in Christ, rather than them. Amen.

Proverbs: 15:33
"The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor."

Mere Christianity
by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, December 14, 2006

December 14 - Spiritual Insight

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 8 - 9
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 2:6 - 16

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 2:10b-12
10b The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Only the Spirit of God truly understands the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit's indwelling of our mortal bodies (Romans 8) is a gift from God to all who believe in Jesus and surrender themselves to him. The Holy Spirit helps us come to know God in deeper and clearer ways -- helping us to understand all that God is freely giving to us through Christ.

Response and Action:
I will seek understanding and guidance from the Spirit of God. I will pray. I will read the scriptures and meditate on them. I will be responsive to the Spirit, being careful to not grieve or quench what the Spirit is doing in my life.

O God, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Through your Spirit, help me to understand and know you more each day. By the power and grace of your Holy Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your name. Amen.

Proverbs: 14:33
"Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known."

The Knowledge of the Holy
by A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 13 - The Wisdom of God

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Judges 6 - 7
New Testament:
1 Corinthians 1:1 - 2:5

Focus Verses: 1 Cor. 1:20-24
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The power and wisdom of God are revealed in Christ Jesus. Philosophy and academics are useful, but they cannot, in and of themselves, give life. The wise man, the scholar, and the philosopher of this age need the truth of God to inform their wisdom, scholarship, and philosophy. God has revealed his truth and wisdom through Jesus.

Response and Action:
Real wisdom is found in Jesus Christ. His words, actions, teachings, relationships, prayers, and stories all reveal the truth of God. I will examine all my studies, ideas, and beliefs in the light of what Jesus has said and done, because he is the wisdom of the God.

O God, thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, your son. Help me to grow in wisdom and truth as I follow closely after him. Amen.

Proverbs: 13:20
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
Dallas Willard

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12 - Down with Division

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Judges 4 - 5
New Testament: Romans 16

Focus Verses: Romans 16:17-18
17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Fellowship among Christians is threatened by those who confuse the clear teachings of scripture with their own opinions, agendas, or selfish interests. These create obstacles to unity. Christians must be on guard against conflicts and circumspect about the people who start them.

Response and Action:
I need to be discerning about people and influences that would damage Christian community. Are problems arising out of selfish motives? Are opinions and issues raised contrary to scriptural teaching and precedent? I need be careful to recognize deception and manipulation. I need to discern when people are putting their own interests over the interests of others and of Christ. I need to be very careful to not be like that myself. I must be on guard against self-centeredness. I must know the teachings of scripture if I want to recognize anything contrary to it. I will take time for prayer and Bible reading everyday in order to know what Christ and the apostles have taught. I will strive to be humble and selfless and careful to examine my own actions and motives.

O God, help me to recognize those things that are divisive -- opinions, arguments, lies, pride, manipulation, and selfishness. Help me to know your word, to live by it, and to bring people together through it. Help us all to turn away from selfish impulses and instead be filled with the desire to serve and honor you. Amen.

Proverbs: 12:26
A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray."

Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict
Kenneth C. Haugk

Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11 - Acceptance, Unity, and Praise

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Judges 1 - 3
New Testament: Romans 15

Focus Verses: Romans 15:5-7
5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Acceptance of others is essential to unity within the Christian community. The strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. We should work to build up our neighbors and do what is pleasing for their good. This is the kind of community that fosters true discipleship and brings glory to God.

Response and Action:
I want to experience healthy Christian community marked by unity and acceptance. I must bear with the weaknesses of others and work for the benefit of others. Real community requires effort and God's grace. Real community benefits all its members and brings glory to God.

O God, give me a love for others. Help me to accept those who are weak and commit myself to helping them grow strong. When I am weak, move others to come around to encourage and help me. By the power of your Spirit and the guidance of your written word, help your people to become servants to each other. Help us to follow Jesus with all our hearts and to bring honor and glory to you, dear Father. Amen.

Proverbs: 11:25
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
Brennan Manning

Sunday, December 10, 2006

December 10 - Living with Differences

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Joshua 23 - 24
New Testament: Romans 14

Focus Verses: Romans 14:1-5
1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Some matters are disputable. People of faith may have differing views on what to do and how it should be done when there is no clear "thus sayeth the Lord." Believers may have very different backgrounds, perspectives, freedoms, and weaknesses. These differences can result in and perhaps will require Christians to live out faith their faith in very different ways. In such matters, believers should not judge or look down on each other. Christians should be fully convinced about their own perspectives and convictions and live according to them out of reverence for God.

Response and Action:
I need to be realistic about the fact that some matters are indeed disputable. I need to make sure that my viewpoints and actions are truly being guided by my faith in God and my submission to his will. In disputable matters, I need to graciously respect the viewpoints and actions of others. I need to live my life according to my convictions and grant that same freedom to others.

O God, help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Guide me by your Spirit and by your written word. Help me to live out my faith in my daily life. Give me a humble heart and graciousness toward others who live out their faith differently than I do. Help all of us who follow Christ to be an encouragement to each other. Help us to respect, understand, and forebear each other. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 10:14
"Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin."

Paul for Everyone: Romans: Chapters 9-16
by N.T. Wright

Saturday, December 09, 2006

December 9 - Promises Kept

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Joshua 21 - 22
New Testament: Romans 13

Focus Verses: Joshua 21:43-45
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

God keeps his promises. Israel's obedience and faith brought them to a place where they experienced God's promise and provision.

Response and Action:
I need to trust God and obey him. I need to commit myself to knowing his word, understanding his will, and following his commands. The testimony of scripture is that the one who trusts in the Lord will never find that trust to be misplaced. I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will acknowledge him in all my ways, trusting that he will make my path straight.

O God, you have promised to deliver and sustain me. You have promised that I will find life and hope in you. If I will surrender to you, you promise to protect, provide, forgive, renew, empower, transform, lead, strengthen, and deliver me. Help me to trust in you completely and to live out that trust in every day and in every way. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 9:11
"For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life."

God's Inspirational Promises
by Max Lucado

Friday, December 08, 2006

December 8 - Body Life

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Joshua 18 - 20
New Testament: Romans 12

Focus Verses: Romans 12
4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

God's intent for Christian community is that it be meaningful, deep, helpful, and beautiful. Every Christian has a place in the body of Christ and has something to contribute to the rest of the body. We are called to be devoted to one another, to have sincere love for each other, and to honor one another above ourselves.

Response and Action:
I need to see myself in the context of Christian community. I need others to help me live and grow in Christ. By using my gifts, I can help others to do the same. I must invest myself -- devote myself to building meaningful relationships with others in my church and circle of Christian friends. I must always be looking for ways to love them, serve them, and honor them.

O God, help me to experience true Christian community. Help me to be faithful, fruitful, and effective as your servant: as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, and colleague. Help me to love others with a selfless love that seeks their best interest. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs: 8:13
"To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I (wisdom) hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech."

Christly Gestures: Learning to Be Members of the Body of Christ
by Brett P. Webb-Mitchell

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7 - Glory to God

Today's Reading:
Old Testament: Joshua 14 - 17
New Testament: Romans 11

Focus Verses: Romans 11
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God's will and work to save humankind is beyond human comprehension. Those who respond to God's grace and mercy, those who reject it, and how they affect and relate to each other and to God is something only the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God can trace out. All things are from God and through God and for God. All glory belongs to him.

Response and Action:
My faith rests in God. The scriptures testify that he is loving, just, all-wise, and all-powerful. I know that life, truth, and even my own self are too wonderful and deep for me to grasp and comprehend. In humble recognition of my weakness, the limitations of my understanding, the smallness of my being, and the frailty of my life, I place all my hope and trust in God. In faith I will take hold of the salvation and hope he holds out to me through Christ. In faith I will surrender to the leading and shaping of the Holy Spirit. In faith I will hide the scriptures in my heart that I might be an obedient disciple. Since all I have comes from God, I will commit my all to bringing glory and honor to Him.

O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together!
O God, you are my God, and I will glorify you. I will seek you in the morning. My hope is in you all day long. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Proverbs: 7:4
"Say to wisdom, 'You are my sister,' and call understanding your kinsman..."

I Give You Glory, O God: Honoring His Righteousness in Your Private Worship
by Jerry Bridges

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

December 6 - Beautiful Feet

Today's Reading:
Old Testament:
Joshua 11 - 13
New Testament:
Romans 9:30 - 10:21

Focus Verses: Romans 10:11-15
11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Salvation is given to all who place their trust in Christ Jesus. People cannot believe something unless that something is placed before them. The message of Jesus -- the good news of salvation -- must be seen and heard if people are to believe it. God is revealing this truth through scripture, through his creation, and through his people, the church.

Response and Action:
My trust is in the Lord, Christ Jesus. I believe that Jesus is God's salvation for all who will believe. I want to share the truth of Jesus so that others will see and hear good news and believe in Jesus, and in believing find salvation. I must draw close to Jesus each day of my life; the closer I am to him, the more I will know him, and the easier it will be share him. My obedience to Christ, my worship of him, my reading and meditation of scripture, my prayers, my service, my thoughtfulness, and my everyday experience as a follower of Jesus will all help me share him more effectively with others.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, O God! There is no better news than the message of salvation through Jesus. Thank you, O Lord, for the hope and life I have received through faith in Jesus. Help me to grow in my faith and to live out my salvation each day. Thank you for the ways you have sent the good news to me. Thank you for the people who have been a witness to me. Help me, O God, by your grace and the transforming power of your Spirit, to be a source of good news to the people around me. Please help me to help others find the truth of Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs: 6:23
"For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life..."

How to Give Your Faith Away
by Paul E. Little